Russian author Jacob Green on writing an LGBTQ+ book despite his country's 'anti propaganda' laws

Base on real-life events, Truth With Ornaments is a powerful statement on LGBTQ+ lives.

A man reaching out between the bars of a gate

Truth With Ornaments, the recently published powerful new LGBTQ+ book by Jacob Green, is more than just a worthy addition to queer literature, it is also a brave political statement – releasing a queer-themed book in a country where LGBTQ+ content is considered ‘extremist’.

Jacob Green chatted with GCN about the book’s inspiration, what he hopes readers will take away from it, and how its release actually affected his own life.

What was the inspiration for this particular story?

I was inspired by the idea of breaking the stereotypes about gay people. 15 years ago I couldn’t say out loud that I was gay; out of the fear of being stigmatised, the word would stick dry in my mouth. Back then, I couldn’t let that happen because it would destroy my life; that was why coming out to my friends and family wasn’t an option. But tension was bottling up and the questions I had asked myself about my identity started ringing louder and louder; no answer followed. Deep in my heart, I knew that it existed so I set off on a journey to my father, into the heart of Siberia.

In the dim light of a train carriage taking me from Yekaterinburg to Krasnoyarsk, for the first time in my life I lost control of myself. Call it whatever: I took a notepad and started writing like I was obsessed; words were flowing in torrents. Time had lost its meaning; I was literally coming out.

In a few hours I would take a look into my father’s eyes – the man both close and alien to me (I hadn’t seen him for 22 years) – and realise that I had already found the answer within me. Much later, in the Special Thanks section of the book I would write: “To my father who left me at the age of three. As a boy I hated him for leaving me. As an adult, I thank him for this opportunity to see things as they are and feel the diversity of the world as it is.”

I took a considerable risk giving first copies of the book in Russian to my colleagues because it would make it clear for them that I was gay. To my relief, it was so good that a die-hard homophobe became a good friend of mine. Later she told me that my story made her reconsider the conservative attitude towards gay people.

What do you hope readers will take from your book?

I hope that LGBTQ+ readers will become more confident and non-LGBTQ+ readers will become more tolerant. 

As a gay person in Russia, were you frightened about the reactions to your releasing the book? Were you worried about your safety?

I was scared to death. As for my safety, there were a few dangerous episodes. All I knew was that I had to be stronger and braver – it helped.

What is the situation like for the LGBTQ+ community in Russia at the moment?

The situation for the LGBTQ+ community in Russia has been aggravated since the introduction of the anti-LGBT propaganda law in 2013: gay sites are blocked, gay places are forced to remove their nameplates so nobody would guess that behind a particular door, there is a gay bar or club.

More and more people are trying to escape this reality and seeking asylum in Europe and countries like the USA by any means.

What are your future plans for writing, will you continue to tell LGBTQ+ stories?

Yes, I will. Currently, I am working on a series of creative pieces to shed more light (truth) on the episodes from the book in connection with real life issues in the LGBTQ+ world.

Translated by Jacob Green, Truth with Ornaments is available in English on Amazon in digital and paperback. The link can be found at the author’s website

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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